Migrate /home in Ubuntu

Sadly Ubuntu does not have LVM enabled in the default install, as this whole issue would be solved with a simple pvmigrate and lvresize...

My /home (which is on a separate /dev/sda5 partition) is filling up.
The availability of Steam on Linux gave it the final blow: it's time to bring in another partition.
As I don't want to commit a whole partition to /home, I've mounted /dev/sdc2 as /space and I'm going to create a symlink to an home subdirectory.

First, boot Ubuntu in rescue mode and select root shell.

Mount all filesystems

#mount -a

note that mounted filesystem won't be visible with a df, but you should cat /proc/mounts to see them
Set proper permission to the new partition

#chown root:root /space
#chmod 755 /space

Then create the new home and copy the old one

#mkdir /space/home
#cp -a /home/* /space/home/

Mount / read/write as we'll need to modify the fstab

#mount / -o rw,remount
#vi /etc/fstab

Comment the old /home
Remove the old home mount point and create the new symlink

#umount /home
#rmdir /home
#ls -s /space/home /home


A trip by the sea

Having survived Christmas and its endless lunches and dinners, a change of pace was necessary: so we decided for a walk near the sea.
From home, it's a 75+75km trip.

Here is the elevation profile of the road: it starts at 97m, goes up to 590m and down to 10m

On the downward slope, I was caught in a traffic jam: 15 minutes of stop-and-go slow moving.
Here is a snapshot, 9 minutes in the jam: not only I didn't use the engine at all, but I even charged the battery.

That's a fully charged battery, a rare sighting in normal traffic:

Back home, the total mileage was 5.0 l/100Km
I'll compare this result with a later summer trip, where temperatures will be more favorable to better mileage and the car will have more running (it only has 2500Km right now).



According to the manual, the B gear should be used on slopes to slow down the car without stressing the brakes.
Some people say that B gives a better grip on snowy roads, even on flat ones.
Since we had snow a couple of days ago, I've done some tests.
No hills here, so just flat, icy roads.
The B allows you to slow down approaching crossroads without touching the brakes: it may somewhat confuse the drivers that follow.
Anyway, while driving with the B on, and cruising at constant speed, I noticed an higher noise level than usual: the engine was running at high RPM rate.
At 68 km/h instant mileage was 6.2 l/100km
Shifting back to the D gear lowered consumption back to 5.0 - 5.2 l/100km.
I asked some Prius and Auris drivers, and it seems in those cars, driving in B, on a plain road, is just the same as driving in D, with no different RPM rates.
Is this a different behavior of the Yaris Hybrid?


Women and Engines revisited?

This used to be an authoritative site for PC enthusiast.
Then, it began publishing photos of winking girls posing with PC hardware as in
Is it just the evolution of the old "women and engines"?


The Reboot Syndrome

Shouldn't reboots be an exclusive feature of Windows-based OSes?
It doesn't seem so.
This morning, while driving, I turned on my Yaris infotainment system with the MODE button on the steering wheel.
It turned on as usual with the FM station tuned in. (Bad design here: it was on the USB player when I turned it off yesterday)
I pressed MODE again to switch to USB and bang!

The screen showed the Hybrid logo of the boot sequence.
After that, it correctly switched to USB.

QNX should be a crash resistant OS, able to reload only the offending module.
Reboot was really fast, barely the time to think "what's that?" and the system was back on line: however it's not an excuse...


Attack of the QWERTY Androids

Android phones with full QWERTY physical keyboards are virtually non-existent.
Samsung has one low-spec phone targeted at the young chat addicted, HTC has none, the last Motorola is the years-old Droid.
No interesting phones in sight either.
As more and more businesses are ditching Blackberry as Yahoo in http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2409780,00.asp, someone in charge will finally realize that doing serious email work on a touch keyboard is false promise.
Will we see more QWERTY Android phones in the near future?


Untangling HBA multipath

How can you check what HBA is used for a given device?
If you are using multipath, which device is using which port?

Let's say we need to check /dev/sdc
First, check which scsi_device belongs to it:

# ls -l /sys/class/block/sdc/device/scsi_device/
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 0 Jul 20 12:22 1:0:0:0/

The "1" above means that the device is seen through host1.
Now we can look at host1:

# cat /sys/class/scsi_host/host1/info
Emulex LPe11002-M4 4Gb 2port FC: PCIe SFF HBA on PCI bus 02 device 00 irq 66 port 1

so, it's the second port of an Emulex adapter.


Calling out for a car key standard

Here are a couple of car keys from two different brands:

On the left, you have the lock button up the unlock button down.
On the right you have the unlock button up, and the unlock down.
The first has two raised bumps on the lock button and no bumps on the unlock.
The second has one bump on the unlock and no bumps on the lock button.

It's simply impossible to lock and unlock the car without getting the keys out of the pocket and looking at them.


Nmap Portable

Sometimes you may have to run nmap from a Windows machine without installing anything.
It's possible to build a portable version of nmap that is somewhat limited (no winpcap), but still usable for a quick port scan.

First you'll need to build the portable package: use a windows machine where you have administrative access.
Download the Nmap windows binary file from here.
Install and run it at least one time to make sure all the DLLs were correctly extracted.
Now you'll have to manually put DLL from the MS VC Runtime in the same directory of nmap.

You'll need:
  • Microsoft.VC90.CRT.manifest
  • msvcp90.dll
  • msvcr90.dll
  • msvcp100.dll
  • msvcr100.dll
They may be in some unusual places like C:\Windows\winsxs\x86_microsoft.vc90.crt_1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b_9.0.30729.5570_none_509463cabcb6ef2aCopy them in the same directory of nmap.exe.

Now copy the whole nmap installation directory on an USB key, and you'll be able to run it from another machine without installing.


Hillclimbing with the Yaris Hybrid

It's a common belief that hybrid cars are best suited for urban usage.
Last evening I went for dinner hillside near my home town.
It was a 68 Km round trip.
Here is the elevation profile of the road:

It's a 34 Km road that crosses several small towns, max speed was 80 Km/h due to several speed cameras.
Starting elevation is 97 meters, ending is 329.

Ending mileage was 3.9 L/100Km.
By comparison, the week-long average consumption of my all-urban travelling was 4.4.
It seems that hybrid cars are not only for the city.


Mounting a disk image

Dumping a full disk is a quick way to perform a backup:

# dd if=/dev/sdb of=filename.dsk

But once you have such a dump, you can't directly mount it, you must use kpartx:

# kpartx -av filename.dsk
add map loop0p1 (252:0): 0 7830408 linear /dev/loop0 1144

You can see the partitions with fdisk

# fdisk -l /dev/loop0

Disk /dev/loop0: 4009 MB, 4009754624 bytes
128 heads, 22 sectors/track, 2781 cylinders, total 7831552 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xc3072e18

      Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/loop0p1   *        1144     7831551     3915204    b  W95 FAT32

Now you can mount the partitions that are inside the disk image.

# mount /dev/mapper/loop0p1 /mnt
# df -h
Filesystem           Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda5             31G   12G   18G  41% /
udev                 3.9G  8.0K  3.9G   1% /dev
tmpfs                1.6G  960K  1.6G   1% /run
none                 5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
none                 3.9G  200K  3.9G   1% /run/shm
/dev/sdb5             20G  1.4G   18G   8% /home
/dev/mapper/loop0p1  3.8G  1.1G  2.7G  29% /mnt

Once you've done, you can umount it with

# umount /mnt
# kpartx -dv filename.dsk
del devmap : loop0p1
loop deleted : /dev/loop0

Ubuntu doesn't have kpartx installed by default:

# sudo apt-get install kpartx


Hybrid Synergy Forum

Chances are that if you landed on this page, you're interested in hybrid cars.
The real authority in the field is here:

For Italian speaking people, the Hybrid Synergy Forum is the best place to find info about hybrid cars and all that surrounds them.


Dashboard ergonomics

Nearly all new cars have on-board navigation.
But still many prefer old-style external navigators.
One of the reason is they have better ergonomics: they can be plugged on the windshield so they are in the line of sight while driving.
The new Yaris Hybrid is no exception: the infotainment system is way too low on the cockpit:

With the help of GIMP, I've tried a little redesign:

There's enough room for an higher navigator position, and lower air outlets would help air circulation also.

There's a thread about this on the Hybrid Synergy Forum here.


Yaris Hybrid first mileage tests

Here is my trip to work and back.
It's a 15 minutes, 13 Km trip, something like 3 Km of urban roads at the beginning and the end, and a small town in the middle.
Road is plain, no hills or overpasses: according to wikipedia, my hometown is 9 meters lower than my workplace.
Energy balance is even: battery gauge was at level 3 both at the start and the end.
Here is the trip from work to home:

Minutes -3, -8 and -15 are totally in EV mode.
Minute -15 was spent while exiting from the parking, while during the others I was actually driving.
Average is 4.6 L/100km

And now back from home to work:

First 2 minutes in EV, while driving around home, then again minutes -1, -3, -4, -7, -8 all electric.
Average is 3.5 L/100km

I don't use the ECO-mode nor EV-mode buttons.


Double click

Here's the key:

To lock or unlock doors only one press is required.
I keep all my keys in the same pocket, so while I was searching for my home key, the car lights flashed: the unlock button accidentally was pressed by the other keys rolling in the pocket.
Single click is a bad design choice:
single click -> select
double click -> execute
that's the way on my desktop, that should be the way in my pocket too.

Toyota Touch hidden menu

Keep SETUP button pressed while turning on and off the headlights 3 times:

Here's the hidden menu.
The "Next page" button leads to this screen:

No items are selectable here.


EV: share the fun

Driving the Yaris Hybrid is a relaxing experience.

Its ability to run only with its electric motor in the city traffic is rewarding.
There's an EV indicator on the driver's dashboard that lights up when the gasoline engine turns off and you're moving only on electric power.
It's a kind of a satisfaction switch: it turns on and bang! You're instantly gratified.
It's a feeling that must be shared: everyone should know that!
So it's a shame that the EV indicator is only on the dashboard: it should be visible from the outside also.
Stick it on the rear glass and make it glow when moving on electric power!

So who's following you can say: "Damn, he's moving effortless while I'm here wasting my gasoline".

Nvidia: the way it's meant to be driven.

There's a thread about this on the Hybrid Synergy Forum here.

Yaris Hybrid 12V battery

It's under the back seat, but its panel is kept in place by a couple of these plastic pegs:

You'll need a little screwdriver to extract the peg and his surrounding ring.

Here is it, removed from its housing.

Now it's possible to remove the plastic cover.
I've found it easier to start from the side of the seat, pulling to detach the cover.

Here is the 12V battery:

Lesson learned: always keep a screwdriver in the car, in case you'll need to charge the 12V battery while on the road.
Shame on you Toyota: why not just use a tool-less retention mechanism?
Every car driver, hybrid or not, has some story to share about low batteries, so access to the 12V one should be as easy as possible.


Yaris Hybrid engine threshold

On the Yaris Hybrid power meter, there's a mark that, when crossed, causes the engine to be turned on.
If you keep your accelerations below that "waterline" you can travel with the electric motor alone (if the battery is charged enough).

Here is the mark, highlighted by the red arrow:

Yaris Hybrid power meter


Moving Windows 7 user homedir

A brand new Windows 7 install puts the Users folder on the C drive.
My C drive is an SSD, so space is at premium.
I moved my homedir to the secondary HD this way:
  • Create a new administrative account called "admin".
  • Reboot (just to close file locks) and login as "admin"
  • Open a command prompt with administrative privileges

mkdir D:\Users
robocopy C:\Users\myaccount D:\Users\myaccount /mir /copyall /xj
rmdir /s C:\Users\myaccount
mklink /j C:\Users\myaccount D:\Users\myaccount

  • Logoff an login back as the migrated account.
  • Remove the now useless "admin" user.
Note: while deleting the source directory, Windows may complain about CurrentDatabase_372.wmdb beeing in use.
Just stop service WMPNetworkSvc and repeat.


The Intel stock cooler

I've just installed a new i5 processor.
The stock Intel cooler is now the loudest component in my PC.
Louder than my old Athlon X2 4400+ stock cooler.
Why don't they just supply a higher quality cooler with a 200€ processor?


How buggy is iOS 6?

I've upgraded my iPad to iOS 6 a couple of days ago.
It seems a mess to me.
The new maps have a long way to go to be on par with Google's.
My iPad doesn't lock anymore when I close the cover.
The podcast app is both installing and installed.

Safari's bookmarks sometimes vanish.


Hacking QNX CAR-based Toyota Touch&Go

While I'm waiting for my new Yaris HSD to arrive, I've gathered some info on its infotainment system, the Touch&Go audio and navigation system.

It's based on the QNX CAR platform, and it allows downloading of apps from the Toyota website.
It's a system that just begs to be hacked.

There's a nice quickstart guide on the QNX website: it guides you to install a fully functional develpment environment.


It's even available a VMware VM with a full QNX environment where you can test the SDK.


The SDK itself is available as an evaluation at http://www.qnx.com/products/evaluation/ (windows and linux flavours).

Here is a little hello world to try:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
    printf("Welcome to the QNX Momentics IDE\n");
    system("sleep 60");
    return EXIT_SUCCESS;

After the build, the executable is available in


I shared that directory and mounted it from inside the QNX VM:

mkdir /mnt
fs-cifs //hostname: /mnt user password

Note the redundancy of specifying both the host name and the ip address.
From the /mnt directory it's possible to run the sample on the VM.

Recompiling with arm target should produce an executable suitable for the real platform.
I will continue my experiments when I'll have the real car at hand.

I've finally got my car.
It seems that the Touch system comes in two flavors:
  1. Touch: which performs audio and trip information (energy management and mileage history)
  2. Touch&Go: which add navigation and apps to the above.

There's indeed an additional hardware component (the GPS module), but the base system is the same.
I only have the base Touch system, and I'm not going to buy the additional module, because it's simply not worth the price for me.
I don't understand why apps should run only when the GPS module is present and maybe there's a chance to run them even without it.

Is there any volunteer, with a Touch&Go system, that has already downloaded some sample apps like Glass of Water, willing to send me a dump of his USB media?
A simple

dd if=/dev/sdc | bzip2 >usb.dump.bz2

would do (make sure your USB key is /dev/sdc).

Plane in flight on Google Maps

A small plane flying over.
Two ghost images forego the plane itself.



Google is a liar!

Want a faster Google Docs? Get Chrome

Sure, I would like to be able to properly edit my spreadsheets on my iPad.
So I downloaded Chrome for iPad, but this is what I've got.


IBM's epic fail

Not quite the same as Nokia's, but still a good laugh.
I'm a subscriber of the IBM AIX newsletter (just for work, not for pleasure :-).
Here is the latest issue, available at http://www.ibmsystemsmag.com/aix/administrator/security/shell_easy/

Sure it's easy, it's a Mac!
Here is the keyboard at the Apple store:

There's a subtle irony in the fact the Mac platform abandoned the PowerPC platform several years ago...


LG vs Samsung

I have two LCD TVs, an LG and a Samsung. Both do their work quite well, but there's one feature of the LG that I can't really stand: when turned back on from standby, it tunes on the last channel it was when turned off, and you have to wait a handful of seconds before being allowed to change.
The Samsung TV instead, can be turned on tuned on a specific channel just by pressing the channel number on the remote.
This saves some time and some frustration too.


The WOW Factor

I remember the first editions of VMworld: technologies like vmotion and FT made you just standing still thinking "WOW!".
That "WOW factor" had faded away in later editions: virtualization technology is now a consolidated thing and I've not seen anything really breathtaking.
The last two editions were really all about the cloud (yawn!) and just some other little incremental improvements.
Finally, I saw something that could bring a revolution in the way virtualization clusters are built:
SimpliVity Omnicube and Nutanix Complete Cluster.
It's WOW time again...


How to check if a variable contains a string

string="this string contains a test substring"

if [[ "$string" == *test* ]]
        print "substring found"


Bye bye Internet Explorer, Chrome on the rise.

It's been an year since this blog was up and running.
Time to take a look at the stats:

Firefox (39%)
Chrome (30%)
Internet Explorer (17%)
Safari (5%)
Others (9%)

Desktop (91%)
Mobile (9%)

Despite all the claims, mobile browsing is still lagging behind desktop.


RAID 5 write performance

Everybody knows that RAID 5 has poor write performance, but how much?
With some spare parts at my disposal, I've done some testing:
Here is a RAID 5 volume, built with 7 SAS drives, each one is 146GB @ 10K rpm.
The controller is an HP Smart Array P400

[root@test /]# dd if=/dev/vg_99/lv_share of=/dev/null bs=1024 count=10240000
10240000+0 records in
10240000+0 records out
10485760000 bytes (10 GB) copied, 40.097 s, 262 MB/s
[root@test /]# dd of=/dev/vg_99/lv_share if=/dev/zero bs=1024 count=10240000
10240000+0 records in
10240000+0 records out
10485760000 bytes (10 GB) copied, 500.826 s, 20.9 MB/s

So, 262 MB/s reading vs 20.9 MB/s writing.


"I finally cracked it"

There's one feature that will be killer on a TV:
rolling back the news ticker

I always arrive late at reading the scrolling text, so I read the last words of something that seems interesting, wondering what it's all about, and I need to wait for it to return again.
I dream of a button on the remote that rolls back only that part of the screen, and lets you read the full sentence again.

As usual, I'm writing it here and now, so I can become a patent troll when Sony or Samsung or even Apple will really implement that.

How this could be done, is left as an exercise for the reader.


Repairing Roomba main brushes

After a couple of years of relentless service, my trusty iRobot Roomba has stopped spinning his brushes. It roams the room, spins the side brush, but the bottom, counter-rotating brushes don't work anymore.
With a little searching in various forums, it seems that dust may pile up into the electric motor until a complete freeze.
Roomba is a pleasure to open: its construction is entirely modular and all the pieces come together by screws and joints. The screws, even when unscrewed, remain into their seating, so they can't be lost
I opened the underbelly by turning 5 screws.

Using an air compressor, I've sprayed lots of air on all the moving parts, removing an impressive amount of dust.
The main brushes motor is located under the red box.

You can see a hole that peeks inside the motor where you can see the copper windings: lots of compressed air in and lots of dust out!

I've reassembled all the components and voilĂ : Roomba is back in action.


HP iPAQ rx5935

My 2007 TomTom-equipped iPAQ is still performing his duties. During its life, it's been used as a mobile wi-fi browser, a lullaby generator for my daughter and, of course, a navigator.

It's even equipped with a nice leather slipcase, but it has a design issue: the power button is left exposed and is really easy to press. I've found it powered on while stuffed in my pouch many times: any other item that casually touches it, may turn it on.

Goodbye Euro?

It's since 2002 that euro is a running currency, but it seems that RaiNews24 still hasn't updated its broadcasting font:

Oh, wait... maybe they know something we don't know yet?


Goodbye defrag, hello (again) HSM.

Defrag tools are on the verge of extinction.
SSD drives are making them superfluous when not plain disruptive.
But SSD sizes are not catching up anytime soon with conventional HDs. Multimedia files are filling up gigabytes of space and their placement on solid state drives is too expensive, while benefits are minimal for occasional access.
What is really needed is a hierarchical file system that can handle multiple drives at once.
A big mechanical HD would be paired with an SSD drive.
Frequently accessed sectors would be replicated on the SSD for faster access. All writes should be directed on the SSD for faster I/O completion. Files would then be written back to the HD in the background while optimizing placement and seeks of the magnetic head.
Hybrid disks like the Seagate Momentus seems to be moving that way, but a really small cache limits its benefit.
A software solution at the file system level can be more flexible by allowing mixing different sizes of SSD and HD, and a higher level of abstraction may allow better optimization than a simple cache.
After virtualization, is this another Mainframe technology going from datacenters to homes?


Replacing a mechanical HD with an SSD

My home PC is aging... It's 6 years old now, and while this confirms the goodness of the choices I've made when I built it, this also means that the XP installation has gathered so many stuff that it's now slow as hell.
A full boot takes now as much as 4'20":
30" from startup to the login screen of Windows XP
3'40" to quiesce all disk activities.
At that point, 40 more seconds are necessary from login to complete disk stop. Trying to launch any program before the disk settles out, just results in more thrashing and an even slower startup.
So I've bought a Crucial m4 SSD to see if this upgrade can make a difference.

This was the starting configuration:
I have 2 HDs in my PC, one for the OS and one for the data.
The OS is multiboot, so I have one partition for XP and one for Ubuntu.
The remaining disk space is for Windows program files partition.

On the second unit there are the swap partitions for Windows and Linux, the Documents and Settings partition, the /home filesystem and some spare space for Windows.

The purpose of this layout is to allow concurrent access to OS and swap, OS and user files, applications and user data.

The first step was copying the content of the first disk onto the new ssd.
I connected the new disk to an empty SATA connector and booted into Parted Magic.
Using GParted I initialized the new disk with Device -> Create Partition Table, then it was just a copy/paste work between the old partition on /dev/sda and the new disk seen as /dev/sdc
The Crucial M4 is just 119GiB while my old disk was 153, so I needed to shrink the sda3 partition to make it fit.
After copying the /dev/sda1 partition I needed to set the "boot" flag on it on the new disk to make it bootable.

GParted copied all partitions but left a standard Windows MBR, so grub was gone and linux didn't boot.
To restore the grub MBR I've followed this excellent guide, and linux was back in action.
Windows booted but wasn't in good shape either:

I logged in and the whole desktop froze with only the wallpaper displayed, but no start button, taskbar or icons.
It just hung there forever.
I rebooted in safe mode by pressing F8 and choosing "Safe mode with command prompt".
A popup went up, saying that windows had found new hardware and the drivers had been installed.
One more reboot and Windows was fine with the new disk.

Now a complete boot takes as low as 19 seconds, and no more disk thrashing after loggin on: the Start menu is immediately available and responsive.

The last step was setting noatime in /etc/fstab to reduce writing on the SSD.

So, here it is, by comparison with a traditional 3.5" HD, the little Crucial M4


Crucial M4 Performance

Model: M4-CT128M4SSD2
Firmware: 000F

root@pc:~# dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/null
19573461+0 records in
19573461+0 records out
10021612032 bytes (10 GB) copied, 40.9522 s, 245 MB/s

root@pc:~# dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmpfile bs=1024 count=1024000
1024000+0 records in
1024000+0 records out
1048576000 bytes (1.0 GB) copied, 6.06945 s, 173 MB/s


dmidecode 2.11 for Windows

Every now and then, I find myself doing some machine inventory. Having a common tool for Windows and Linux is a big plus, so collected data is coherent between different systems.
dmidecode is a Linux utility that reads the BIOS and prints out the configuration of the machine (CPU, cores, RAM).
Browsing the Internet I've found one version for Windows, but it's still version 2.10 and it doesn't support newer BIOSes.
So I've picked up the patches that Hugo Weber had done for version 2.8 and integrated them into the 2.11 source tree.
I've compiled them with DevC++ and here they are:

Another weirdness of Google Maps

This a StreetView snapshot from Legoland. The face blurring algorithm has blurred out even the LEGO-built Mount Rushmore faces.

This could be either a tribute to the quality of the LEGO models engineers or an epic failure of the Google algorithm, since the real Rushmore itself is not blurred.


DailyTech - Honda, University of Tokyo Create Preventative Traffic Jam System

DailyTech - Honda, University of Tokyo Create Preventative Traffic Jam System

This study aims at reducing traffic jams by suggesting driving behavior to the driver.
It's interesting they're using Italy as a test case, but I bet it will fail: Italian drivers are notoriously "road warriors" that don't accept advices while driving.


Unity redemption?

So, I wasn't at fault when I criticized Unity Launcher: 12.04 introduces the top-left-corner activation that solves the "browser back button" syndrome.


ZSH substr

One handy shortcut for getting all the characters except the first 2:


The negative offset is relative to the end of the string.


Superior User Experience

So, here it is, the fabled Apple user experience...
Choose a language:

I'm italian, so...
Would it be difficult to propose Italy as a default location, given that I've just choosen Italian as a language?


WNDR3800 new firmware

This old blog post has gathered some interest lately.
Maybe it was spot on, because Netgear released a new firmware for the WNDR3800 that promise some NTFS improvements, as the readme says.
So, here are the new tests with firmware version V1.0.0.32:

root@pc:~# dd if=/dev/zero of=t/testfile bs=4096 count=102400
102400+0 records in
102400+0 records out
419430400 bytes (419 MB) copied, 27.8515 s, 15.1 MB/s

root@pc:~# dd if=t/testfile of=/dev/null
819200+0 records in
819200+0 records out
419430400 bytes (419 MB) copied, 41.313 s, 10.2 MB/s

and the updated table:

Format Read MB/sWrite MB/s
local USB27.728.7

NTFS now has reasonable performance, but ext2 is still the best choice.


The Mobile Browser Syndrome

Ever since I've become acquainted with browsing the web on my Android phone, I've began showing the following unvoluntary behavior: while browsing a web site on my desktop PC, I just double click the text column, expecting it to zoom full screen, as it happens on a mobile browser.
I've come to the idea that it wouldn't be bad.
And it seems I'm not the only one.
What browser will be the first one to actually implement it?
I'd bet on IE, as probably it'll use the same code base for the desktop and the tablet version in Windows 8.


Who controls the remote control?

Would you click on allow?

The original story is about exploiting free product support by trying to sell premium support on non-existent issues.
Would you allow a complete stranger full control over your PC?

I've made some tests myself with two of the most prominent remote support offering: WebEx and Teamviewer.
WebEx does not allow unattended download of files: each file should be explicitly shared by the owner.
Teamviewer, instead, allows full filesystem access, and a file transfer request from the controlling end, opens a notification window on the remote side with full logging. Sadly that window can be minimized and can be easily ignored by a less expert user.

I'm not saying here that Teamviewer GmbH will exploit your computer, but there's a chance that someone using it, could.

So much for the corporate level support, but there is a whole market for personal connectivity.
I was browsing the appstore for an RDP/VNC app to control my PC, and I saw that there are plenty. Some of them even require you to install an host component on the target PC. Apparently this trend has been fueled by Microsoft, by disabling Remote Desktop on the Home edition of the latest Windows versions.
What kind of guarantee the user has that the host and the remote app don't do anything suspicious?
Most of them, don't even connect directly the client to the server, but use some kind of external gateway, to overcome NAT issues.
This a classic man-in-the-middle scheme.
Do you trust their encryption?
Do they keep a copy of your remote control session?
Nearly all of this remote control apps have file transfer capabilities:
Once you have given full access to your pc, how much it takes for the "man-in-the-middle" to download browser history, password cache, "My Documents" folder?

So, by looking at my cristal ball, I may say that the next wave of phishing malware will come in the form of free remote control tools.